That first time feeling by P.J.
The first time feeling
Are you finished Granddad? Zac asked as I snipped my way across the front of his face, just below his mouth. I had been Zac's barber for as long as he'd been around, 11 years now. My oldest, John, and his wife Maddie, had been blessed with Zac, soon after they married, much to everyone's delight. Zac had been a bald baby and hadn't sprouted hair until well after his first birthday. Since then he'd been growing the thickest most amazing dark copper colored hair. A family trait on our side.
I'd been designated the family barber, an honor I'd held with my own three boys until they started grade school. My own three however , never did become aficionados of the longer hair styles I started them off with. They fell in love with the clippers at an early age and never looked back. Mind you, none of them shaves their head but they all sport short neat haircuts. All done at our local barber, including mine. I don't do clipper work, only scissors. Maddie started Zac off early on letting me trim his hair as it grew in. Since it is so unique in color, and very thick and slightly wavy, she hasn't yet let John or I take him to our barber. I get the privilege of trimming him whenever he, or his mom deems it necessary. John , while not a fan of the long locks, hasn't protested yet. As Zac has progressed through grade school we'd started out with something akin to a scissored short back and sides and gradually let it grow out to the mane it is today. That's the beauty of kids hair today. His just off the shoulder length mop is every bit as O.K. as the kid with the buzz cut sitting next to him in class. There's no mocking, teasing, or bullying like there was when I was a kid in the 70's. God help you if you came in with a short back and sides or a buzz back then. That's the reason I don't use clippers or allow them to be used on me today.
There! All done Zac, I said, as I roughed up his nearly shoulder length mop and pushed his thick bangs back behind his right ear as was his custom to wear it. Thanks Granddad he said as he ran his hand through the back. I wish you'd let me thin it out or go a bit shorter though, I said, this is quite a mop, and spring is here already, the summer heat will be here soon enough. Nope, this is fine Granddad. I uncapped him and let him run off to show John and Maddie. John sauntered into the kitchen and said, hmm, couldn't persuade him to go any shorter huh. Nope, and you know I won't force him or trick him like your grandmother used to do with me. I know, I know John lamented, we've heard it a million times. I'm hoping he'll let me cut it a bit shorter for his birthday though I sadi. It's June 22nd, school will just be out, and baseball will be starting up. I don't know if he'll be able to keep a ball cap on his head with that mop. I agree, John said. We'll have to see. I'm working on him but as hard as I work on a haircut, Maddie just about gushes about how gorgeous his hair is . You have to admit, I said, he does have a great head of hair. I wish I'd been allowed to let you guys grow your out when you were younger, you'd know how it feels and maybe be a bit more sympathetic with him. He'll want it cut short soon enough. Won't be too much longer and he'll be starting up with girl friends and all that. We know where that leads to don't we, I winked at my first born. He blushed , ran a hand through his neat copper colored locks, and said yup, we do.
Maddie and Zac wandered into the kitchen with Nana just then. Maddie said, thanks Dad, another fine job by barber Granddad right Zac? Perfect, Zac said, as he pushed his huge shank of bangs back out of his face again. I playfully grabbed at his bangs and said, I still have my scissors out, we can takes these shorter if you want. Nope, Zac smiled as he ran off to rough house with the dog. Oh, I almost forgot, Zac said, as he wheeled around and ran back to me. What's that Zac? I looked inquiringly into his eyes. Well, I've been thinking about what you asked me, what I wanted for my birthday. Oh, do tell, what does my soon to be 12 year old grandson want of his ol' Granddad. I think I want you to give me a buzz cut Zac said matter of factly. Stunned silence around the room followed this proclamation. Without missing a beat, I asked, a buzz cut? I reached over and ran a hand through his plush thick mane, shaking the long shank of hair in the back. You want me to cut all this off? Zac said, I've been thinking, School will be out for my birthday, baseball will be starting right after my birthday, and it'll be summer, hot and humid. By the time school starts again, Junior High by the way, it'll have had time to grow out a bit if I don't like it and you can do something different with it. I know a couple of my friends at school have recently gotten buzz cuts and they said it was kind of cool, the clipper felt like a massage, but also kind of weird too. I think I want to try it. And since your my barber, you'll have to do it. With that he ran off to play with the dog.
He left 4 grown adults in stunned silence for a few minutes. John was the first one to speak. Wow, didn't see that one coming! Maddie said, I'll have to have a talk with him, he isn't going to buzz that gorgeous hair if I can help it. My wife just smiled, nodding to me, my how the tables have turned huh P.J. she said. I gave her an inquiring look. Well, she said, you were the one fighting with me about keeping the boys hair long when they were young, only you wanted it long and I wanted the buzz cuts, she laughed. John said, well, while I don't care for his hair as long as it is, I really didn't think he'd want to go from how it is now straight to a buzz cut. That's going to be a very dramatic change, and not a reversible one if he doesn't like it. Well I said, it appears he's put some thought into it, June 22nd is almost 2 months away, let's just see what transpires between now and then. I don't think he'll want another long cut in the mean time.
I do know that I won't be the one administering the buzz cut either, I said quietly. I wondered about that, John said. What are you going to do, John asked, take him to our barber? Hmm, you know that's not a half bad idea. He's been with me when I've gone on several occasions over the years but I never even got him close to sitting in the chair, let alone getting his hair cut. And you know Mike is a great barber with kids but he couldn't even charm him into the chair.
I'd have to give this some thought. I was pretty sure I couldn't bring myself to wield the clippers and buzz off all that gorgeous copper colored hair. I wasn't even sure I wanted to watch Mike do the deed. Just the thought of it made me a bit weak in the knees, and it wasn't even my hair. I flashed back to all the brutal shearing's I was subjected to until I was about Zac's age. My wife was right , my how times have changed.
The next time John and Maddie were over , I pulled John aside and said, let's talk about this buzz cut thing O.K. Sure dad, what's up, John asked, the whole idea freaks you out doesn't it, john said. To be perfectly honest, yes, I replied. John shook his head, I've thought about it, and Maddie and I have talked about it too. While neither of us wants the buzz , we realize, that is been Zac's idea all along, not ours. We're not forcing this on him, he wants it. I've thought about it too, a lot, I said, and I think I have an idea. O.K. john said, let's hear it. Well, Zac's birthday is on a Saturday this year, how about if we make it a 3 generation trip to Mikes for haircuts, make it a special day. I'll have a talk with Zac before the day arrives and explain that while I understand him wanting me to give him his first buzz cut, I just can't do it. I think he'll understand. Coaxing him into the barber chair might be a tall order, but let's try. What do you think. I'm game John said. Let's talk to Zac the week before so he isn't blindsided. Maybe we can have a guys morning out, go have breakfast at the diner, or lunch afterward. O.K.? Think Maddie will be O.K. with it? Sure John said, I'll square it with her. Good, I replied, I'll talk with Mike and book 3 haircuts for that morning and tell him what's up. If he as some advance warning maybe he'll have some creative ideas for getting Zac in the chair.
The week before the dreaded day, I stopped by John and Maddies to talk with Zac. Let's take your dog for a walk buddy, Granddad needs to have a little talk with you, I said. We leashed up the pooch and headed down to the park. We stopped for a minute and sat on a bench. Zac, I said, I've given a lot of thought to your birthday request for me to give you a buzz cut haircut. While I'm not fond of buzzing all this penny colored hair off your head, I understand it's your decision. I also know I can't be the one to cut it. Zac's face fell. Why not Granddad. you've always been my barber. You've always cut my hair exactly the way I want it. I know, I said, but, have you ever known me to use clippers on you? Well no, Zac said, thinking for a minute. You use your beard trimmer on my neck, and now you've started using it for my sideburns too, he said, but no, you've never used clippers. Well, I said, I don't have any clippers, cause I don't like em, never have, never will. Just the sound of em brings back many unpleasant memories. So, your dad and I have been talking, you're getting older, and while I love having the privilege of keeping your glorious mane trimmed to perfection, how about if you, your dad, and I, go to barber Mikes on the morning of your birthday, your dad and I can get our hair cut, and Mike can give you that buzz cut your jonesing for? If you decide you like it, Mike can keep cutting it for you. You and I can make it a pact that I'll take you with me when I get my hair cut so we're still kind of like getting your hair cut together. If you don't decide to keep it, I can go back to cutting your hair when it grows out. Zac sat and thought for a few minutes, looking thoughtfully at me. Granddad, I don't understand your feeling about clippers, and I've never really felt comfortable at Mikes, but, your right, I am getting older now, if you and dad both are going to be there, I'll go. Do you think Mike would let you use his clippers and you cut my hair there? Oh, Zac, I sighed, I don't think that'll happen, I won't say for sure, but probably not. Let's wait and see shall we. I now had a great deal to think about. Childhood trauma can be a powerful thing.
The big day arrived, I picked up John and Zac at their house as it was on the way to Mikes. O.K. boys, I asked, what'll it be, big breakfast before haircuts, or big lunch after. John spoke up and looked knowingly my way, let's do lunch after if that's O.K. dad, he said as he nodded in Zac's direction and held up a shaking hand. I nodded back with a look of surprise , then concern. Zac, I said, is everything O.K. this morning, your kind of quiet? You aren't having second thoughts about the buzz cut I asked, running my hand through the back of his mane, roughing it up. He smoothed it back down, his hand pausing in it for a minute. No, I'm O.K. Granddad, he said quietly. Besides I already told my friends Pete and Kyle all about what we are doing today. I'll look like I chickened out if I don't get it cut now, he said. Zac, listen to me, I said. It's perfectly O.K. to feel a little anxious, this is a big change for you, it's only a haircut but I know, it's YOUR haircut. You do remember , it will grow back, right? If you don't want to do it we won't force you, you can use me as an excuse to your friends too if you want. Tell em your ol Granddad changed his mind and just wouldn't allow it and that's that, you'd be off the hook. Right John, I said, looking sternly at John. Yeah, sure dad, John said. We arrived at Mikes, he ushered us into a back section of the shop, separated by a low wall, I'd never noticed it before. John and I reintroduced Zac to Mike, explaining what we were here for and that it was Zac's birthday to boot. Mike asked, O.K. who's going first? John piped up and said, me first. He hopped in the chair and Mike got him taped and caped. O.K. John, what are we doing today, a buzz cut like Zac wants, a father son haircut thing. Johns eyes fairly popped out of his head but he recovered quickly, Uh, no, Mike, just my usual, maybe leave it a little longer this time, Maddie claimed you chopped it a bit short the last time. I heard Mike mumble Hmm, maybe I'll cut it real short and she can see what short really is , then he laughed, noticing Zac watching intently. Just kidding, Mike quipped. John sported the same deep copper colored hair Zac and I did, Mine just starting to show a bit a grey, and he wore it on the long side by todays standards. A very slight taper around the ears and at the neck line, the rest cut thick and full, bangs usually nose length so they stayed back when he combed them back. He'd skipped at least one cut if not two in anticipation of the big day today so Mike was removing a good bit of hair with the clippers, making sure it all landed in Johns lap. The pile wasn't enormous but a significant amount none the less. John smiled knowingly at me noticing what was being done by Mike and realizing that I too knew what he was feeling. That's for another story though.
As Mike cut Johns hair, using clippers for most of the cut, Zac watched intently. Granddad, Zac asked, while never taking his eyes off Mike and John. what exactly is it about clippers that you don't like? Well Zac, back when I was your age( I hated saying that, but what the heck, it was true)things were different. Kids weren't as tolerant of one another as they are today. There was a good deal of pressure to conform , be part of the in crowd if you know what I mean. Guys haircuts in the 70's were a big deal. Dads wanted their sons neat and well groomed, very short hair. boys, on the other hand wanted long hair, the longer the better. Creating a constant battle between boys and adults. Barbers were considered NOT cool. You'd be teased unmercifully for showing up at school with a short back and sides, crew cut , or worse yet, a buzz cut. Today, your generation is much more tolerant of differences, differences of all kinds. You don't tease or mock guys for how they have their hair cut , do you, I asked?
No, that s dumb, nobody ever picked on me for having long hair like this he said, running his hands through his thick mane. And I know they won't if I get a buzz cut today either.
When I was your age, I said, I was forced to get very short haircuts, mainly by my mother. Hated every minute at the barber shop, swore I'd never set foot in one again, once I was allowed to take care of my haircuts on my own. Got picked on and teased horribly by the other kids at school. I swore I'd never again have to feel the clippers on my head. As you can see, I said, nodding my head to Mike, I've relented about the barber shop but not the clippers. Mike is a great barber and listens to me, I've grown to trust him. Right Mike, I said, loud enough for Mike to hear. Mike smiled and nodded in the affirmative, concentrating on Johns cut.
Zac, you need to decide for yourself, what's best for Zac, don't let my story cloud your judgment. I had a bad experience, you won't . I'm just your stubborn old Granddad when it come to getting my hair cut.
O.K. Mike said, P.J. your next, hop on up here. We'll save birthday boy till last if that's O.K. with him. I liked Mike, he was trying to be engaging with Zac, while not being a threat. Zac smiled and said, sure, that's fine. I was getting concerned, John took my place next to Zac. Zac was unusually quiet, even when he'd come here before with me, he'd joke and laugh along with Mike and I. I knew he was nervous. I hoped I hadn't colored his opinion of a barbershop haircut. I had to answer the boy honestly about my experience though. I couldn't lie to him.
Mike made short work of my haircut, using scissors only. I had acquiesced over the years and now allowed him to use a very small pair of peanut clippers to trim my neck hairs. I also loved it when he used a straight razor, as he did today, to clean up my neck and sideburns. I was still stubborn enough to not have my hair close clipped around my ears. I was totally mortified by the latest cuts , bald fades, skinned tapers etc. ( hoped Zac never became interested in any of those.) Selfishly, I was not hot on the whole buzz cut idea, but hoped it would be a onetime thing, and Zac would let it grow out and go back to me cutting it. I treasured every minute of our haircutting time together. We talked about everything during those haircuts. Lots of times things he'd never share with his parents. What happens with Granddad, stays with Granddad.
Soon enough Mike unsnapped the cape, brushed me off one final time and pronounced me done. I ran a hand through my longish locks and shook his hand. Another fine cut Mike, thanks, I said, smiling.
Now, the moment of truth I thought to myself. I glanced quickly at John for any sign of trouble. No evidence of tension from him, good I thought. Mike said, O.k. Zac, hop on up there young man, he said, patting the red leather seat.
Zac stood up, knees shaking a bit, and walked over to the chair. He tentatively climbed into it. God he looked small once he sat down in it. Mike asked him to slide all the way back and brought the adjustable foot rest up for his feet . Zac was getting a bit wild eyed, I glanced at John to see if he noticed, John s face was scrunched with concern. Mike put the paper tape around Zac's neck and fluffed the cape around him, fastening it and asking if it was too tight. Zac shook his head and said no , it was O.K. The head shake dislodged his huge shank of bangs and they fell over his face. Before he could get his hand out from under the cape to push them back, Mike had a hold of them, bushing them back behind Zac's ear. He stood facing Zac with a brush in his hand. O.K. Zac your Granddad says your here to get a buzz cut, is that right? ( I thought I heard a feint drum roll somewhere off in the distance)
Well, Yes, I think so, Zac said meekly. I must say, he looked very small and vulnerable under the crisp white cape. All you saw was this huge mane of gorgeous hair and a small bit of Zac's face sticking out above the cape. I thought sadly, all that hair was soon going to be in Zac's lap if everything went as planned. NO more Granddad haircuts for quite awhile, if ever again.
O.K. Mike said, since it's the first time I've cut your hair, and I believe your first time really in a barbershop for a haircut, I'm going to explain everything I'm doing for you , is that O.K.? Zac seemed to relax a bit and said yes, careful not to shake his bangs loose again.
Mike was now in charge, John and I sat side by side watching with morbid anticipation.
Mike said, first I'm going to brush your hair , I want to make sure there's no tangles in it before we start.
Wow, Mike said as he brushed out the plush mane, this is quite a head of hair you have Zac. Zac smiled for the first time, over at me and said, yes, Granddad takes good care of it for me, except for today of course. P.J., Mike said, looking at me , I have to say, you have done a great job with him, this really doesn't look like a home hack job cut. Gee, thanks Mike, I think. I've had a bit of practice over the years you know. No really P.J. this is a great haircut. Maybe you'd like a part time job in here when we get busy. Don't think so, Mike, but thanks for the offer, you know I'm not a clipper kind of guy, I said, smiling at Zac when I said it. Yeah, don't remind me Mike groaned.
O.K. Zac, a buzz cut huh, Mike said. Here's what I'm going to do. I have a big clipper here, he said, showing Zac the big Oster 76's I was so afraid of. I have guards that clip on them that determine how much hair I leave on your head when I run the clipper over it. The guard numbers start at 1 the bare clippers are considered a zero. Each number represents 1/8 inch in length. A 2 guard means the hair left on your head will be 1/4 inch long, a 4 is 1/2 inch and so on. The biggest guard I have for these is an 8, that leaves the hair 1 inch long, any longer and its just as easy to cut it with scissors as clippers .
I could see Zac taking this all in, listening intently.
There's actually all kinds of variation for buzz cuts. My personal favorite is using a 2 guard on the back and sides, all the way up, then a number 4 on the top. I come back in around the ears and along the neck and taper it slightly with the bare clipper to finish it off. You, my man, have been blessed with VERY thick hair. I can start out with a longer guard and then go progressively shorter, but there's no going back, understand? Yes, Zac said quietly. Since its your first real barbershop haircut Mike said, glancing my way and smiling, I'd recommend we start long and get shorter rather than jumping in with the 2 on the sides right away. I do the sides and back first , then the top by the way. That way if you decide while I'm cutting the sides that you really don't want the total buzz, I have a chance to do something else with the top, like a crew, Princeton, or Ivy league. They're all very short by your standards but not a buzz he said, while lifting up the huge shank over Zac's left ear. Your hair is so thick I might have to use the scissors to remove most of the length first, then use the clippers. I'll try just clipper first and we'll see how it goes. Well Zac, what do you think? Or do you want me to suggest something to start with?
Zac was quiet for a minute. He looked at himself in the big mirror, turning his head from side to side, getting a last look at the old Zac. If you use a 4 on the sides to start Zac said, will I be able to see skin through the stubby hair left on my head or will it be long enough to cover the skin still?
Mike raised his eyebrows and said, ah, are you worried that your hair will be short enough that you'll see your scalp through it? Yes, Zac said, one of my buddies has a buzz cut that's so short he looks bald, I don't want that. Ah, O.K. I understand your concern. Then I'd start with a 4 or 5 and we'll see how that looks on you. I'll only do the lower part of the back, so I can adjust to a longer one if you don't like it as we go higher up the back, it'll look like it's part of the taper. Want to start with that and we'll talk about what to use next as we go along, Mike said. O.K. Zac said, that sounds good. John and I looked at each other. I said, Oh, God, he's not backing down. John looked at me and said, Dad, did you really think he'd change his mind, after all , he's just as stubborn as you and I are. Mike went behind Zac, clipped the 5 guard on, and fired up the Osters. God how I hated that sound! Oh, I almost forgot Zac, Mike said, making eye contact with Zac in the mirror, do you want to watch me cut your hair in the big mirror like we are now, or I can turn you away and turn you back when I finish? Zac said, for now I'll watch if that's O.K. Of course its O.K. bud, Mike said, just let me know if it gets to be too much. Zac said O.K.
Mike stood behind Zac, just off to the side, so John and I could watch. He told Zac to put his chin to his chest and hold it there. Mike plunged his hand into the thick mane at the back of Zac's head laying on the cape, creating an opening for the clippers. Oh God, I moaned, here we go. Mike put a firm grip on ht etop of Zac's herad, and with the other hand plunged the dreaded Osters in, they found Zac's nape, and began their advance up the back of Zac's head. Zac gave an involuntary shudder as the clippers touched his nape. He closed his eyes. I clenched my fists. I wanted to jump up and rip the clippers out of Mikes hands and yell stop!. But I didn't, I watched sadly as the clippers disappeared into the plush mane and advanced up the back of Zac's head, Mike didn't go up very far, and let them ease out , I'm guessing somewhere just below Zac's occipital bone. Mike pulled a huge shank of dark copper colored hair away, letting it slide off Zac's shoulder into his lap. I could tell by Zac's body language that he was fully tense, every muscle taught, eyes still closed. It looked like he was holding his breath too. Oh boy.
Looking at the back of Zac's head you couldn't tell anything had been cut yet, his hair was that thick. Mike glanced at John and I, then said to Zac, how we doing buddy, you O.K.? Zac said Yeah, I guess. Mike said, here we go again then, I'll do across the back down low, then let you look and we'll talk O.K.? Yeah, Zac said softly. I wasn't sure, but I thought Zac was actually holding his breath waiting for the clippers to touch down again.
Mike made several passes, making it apparent that he was actually cutting something after the 3rd pass, Zac's nape was gradually appearing as the bulk of his mane was being cleared away. Huge shanks of wavy hair slid off his shoulder with every pass of the clippers, mounds of hair landing in Zac's lap. Before he started around Zac's ears he turned the hungry Osters off. He reached over to the shelf under the big mirror and grabbed a small hand mirror. O.K. Zac, check the length in this mirror and let me know what you think. Zac opened his eyes, Mike indicated where to look, and ran his hand over the freshly cut nape. From where John and I sat, there wasn't a hint of skin showing. I knew from cutting it all these years, that Mike could probably use the number 2 guard and still not have skin showing, Zac's hair was that thick.
Zac seemed to breath , sighing, and said, yes, he couldn't see skin so that was O.K. Mike said, take your arm out and feel it , do you want it shorter, I could go down to a number 3 or even a 2 it you want, and I don't think you'll see skin, you have very thick hair kid. Zac said, let's try a 3 and see how it looks. Mike changed guards, and quickly ran the clippers over the newly cut area, taking another 1/4 inch off. Mike stopped, grabbed the mirror again and consulted Zac. I noticed that while Mike was cutting, Zac closed his eyes, even though from Zac's perspective, he couldn't see any change yet, it was all on the back of his head, except for the growing pile of locks in his lap. Mike said, I can change to a number 4 for the rest of the back and sides if you want it to get gradually longer, and then do a 5 on top, or we can continue with the 3 all over the sides and back, your choice. Or, at this point I can give you a haircut that would be just about like your dads if you wanted. Zac pondered for a minute. I thought to myself, I'd be O.K. with a cut like Johns, although by comparison, brutally short, he'd still have some hair.
No, lets continue with the number 3 on the rest of the sides and up the back Zac said. O.K. Mike said, here we go then. Zac immediately closed his eyes. The weapon of mass destruction fired up again, this time stripping all the rest of the thick locks off the back of Zac's head. mound after mound of copper hair fell to his lap. Now John and I could plainly see the freshly shaved back of Zac's head. dark copper colored velvet covering what was once plush dense mane. The aforesaid mane was now resting forlornly in Zac's lap I imagined. That part of him was out of site at the moment. Mike moved to Zac's left side and began removing the chin length shank of hair covering his left ear. The clippers made qiuck work of it, long locks quickly fell away in the path of the hungry Osters, revealing for the first time in at least a couple of years, Zac's left ear. Mike continued removing all the thick bulk all the way up to the part line. Zac never moved a muscle. I couldn't believe he was still holding his breath, but wasn't sure. His eyes were tightly closed though. Now that side was just copper velvet too, no skin showing through though. That bit of carnage completed, he moved around to the right side and repeated the brutal removal of all that hair. Zac's right ear was now fully exposed, thank god the kid had good looking ears, I thought. Zac now sat with a huge shank of bangs covering his face and top of his head all the way to his crown, the rest of his head denuded of its once former glory, now reduced to a beautiful dark copper velvet. The clippers stopped again. I noticed Zac take a breath, god, I didn't know the kid could hold his breath that long. It seemed like this was happening in slow motion for me but only a couple of minutes had elapsed. Mike was a master at his craft, and lightening quick with the lethal Osters.
O.K. Zac, sides and back are cut with a number 3. What would you like to do on top? I'd suggest something longer than a 3, I like a bit more length on top to keep the cut interesting, and give it a bit of shape, I'd suggest a 4 or 5 but it's up to you, want to feel the sides and back first? Zac's hand came out from under the cape tentatively, and ran along the side and back of his head. He pushed his bangs aside and asked Mike to hold up the mirror so he could see the fully cut back. Once he got a glimpse of the back, I thought he might swoon. He closed his eyes again. He had the strangest look on his face, neither happy or sad, almost like he was numb.
Zac said, let's try a 5, we can always go down to a 4 or 3 right? Yes, Mike said, and changed out the guard to a 5. He fully brushed Zac's bangs back over his face so he couldn't see again. Mike motioned me to the back of the shop for a conversation, telling Zac he'd be right back.
Mike grabbed me by the shoulders and said P.J. I need you to do something for me. That kids is scared s**tless, but holding it together. Every muscle in his body is taught as a bow string. I can feel it even on his head. We're going to back to the chair, I'm going to turn the clippers on and hand them to you, and I want you to finish the top of his head, maybe when he sees it's you, he might just relax a bit, and breath, for Gods sake, I never had a kid hold his breath that long. Are you crazy Mike, I can't touch those clippers! I'm every bit as stressed as Zac , just watching. I can't possibly handle those things. P.J., you can't screw it up, everything else is already shorter. I'm very concerned that this will be his first and last time in a barber shop if I can't get him to settle a bit at least. He's practically shaking under the cape he's so tense. Help him, help yourself too, there only hair clippers, not a live rattle snake for God's sake. Mike stood , hands on hips, blocking my way back to my seat. You've got to do this P.J. he trusts you. God help me for what I'm about to do I said half to myself. O.K. Come on, let's try this I said to Mike. You need to stay next to me Mike, or I might drop em and bolt.
We both walked back, John had a what's up expression on his face. I put finger to lips and signaled to be quiet. Mike turned the clippers on, and handed them to me. Oh God! yuck! Wow, these things were heavy. I moved to Zac's bangs, I'd cut his hair soooo many times, this was nothing new I said to myself, just a different type of scissors. I shot a quick glance at John, his jaw was agape. I lifted a huge section of Zac's bangs up from his face and brought the huge clipper to his hairline. Mike nodded, I pushed back, the huge hank of hair started to come away in my hands as the vicious Osters plowed their way to the crown of Zac's head. Zac was sitting there, eyes closed holding his breath. I now knew what Mike meant. I could feel the tension in Zac's head. Zac, I said softly, its Granddad, open your eyes please.
I pulled the clippers away, and let the huge hank of hair drop into Zac's lap as he watched me wide eyed. A slightly longer strip of copper velvet appearing on top of Zac's head.
Granddad, he smiled, what are you doing with those clippers he asked incredulously? Did you just use them on me?
Well, unless I miss my guess, Mikes letting me help give my favorite grandson his first buzz cut. But, you have clippers in your hand, Zac said quietly. Oh, I said , looking at the clippers like I'd never seen them before, these, well yes, I guess I do , don't I.
Would you like me to finish cutting this for you I said, grabbing another hank of his formerly magnificent bang hair. Would you, please, Zac said softly. His eye's pleading with me. I glanced at John again, I thought I caught a tear in the corner of his eye but I couldn't be sure. I plowed the vicious clippers in again and off came another great hank of bangs. Zac s eyes stayed open , and he was breathing normally. I could almost feel the tension leaving. Two more passes and Zac's mane was history. He now had a head covered with dark copper velvet. I couldn't resist stroking my hand over his shorn head. It felt exactly the way I remembered from my troubled youth. Soft, yet somewhat prickly if you rubbed it the wrong way, Ugh. You either love it or hate it, I was still a hater I discoverd.
Well Granddad, what do you think, go shorter, Zac inquired, turning his head both ways and checking in the big mirror? If you want my honest opinion, no, I said, let Mike finish it up and live with it awhile, you can always go shorter next time. I looked for the first time in Zac's lap at the huge mountain of hair there. Good god, I said, look at this , as I picked some of it up and let it drop slowly, this was all on your head a half hour ago. I know Zac said, I'm still trying to wrap my head around all this.
Mike tapered the edges a bit, blended the top and sides together , and gave Zac his first straight razor shave. I thought Zac was going to feint at the sight of the straight razor approaching his neck in the mirror.
Mike pronounced Zac finished, brushed him down and uncapped him. Zac stood up, legs wobbly , and studied himself in the big mirror, swinging his head from side to side. He ran his hands all over his head. Well Zac, what do you think of your first buzz cut, Mike asked. Well, to be honest, Zac said, I'm not sure. I think it'll take some getting used to. YOU did a great job Mike, I'm just not sure I like it...yet. Correction, Zac said, with a smile, you and Granddad did a great job. He gave me a sideways hug.
We profusely thanked Mike, I quietly told him I'd get even with him for the clipper thing at a later date. I paid for all three cuts with a generous tip, and we stepped out into the light of day. O.K. I said, after that I'm hungry , let's get lunch. While we were eating I asked Zac, well what do you really think.
Well Granddad, now that the first time is over. I think that if I decide to keep the buzz cut, you can give me the next one O.K. ? We all laughed, I gave a small shudder at the thought.
We'll see Zac, I said, let's see if it grows on you.